07 Wounded

Wounded

© Copyright 2009

Written by Banzai Ben and Amazing Anastasia

banzaiben@gmail.com

 

Wounded Chapter 07

 

Friday 07 December

 

Present – Ben - Hospital – Ramstein AFB Germany

 

After I hang up the phone with Liz and Jens, I'm really pissed off! I didn’t escape from that goat fucker Hussein, fight my way across Pakistan, part of China, and most of Afghanistan, and almost die several times, to put up with the bullshit Jens is giving me. She needs to understand she’s the only one for me! I thought we dealt with this in the past but perhaps she needs a reminder. I need to find her and do whatever it takes to convince her.

 

I rip out all the tubes, except for the catheter because it hurts too much when I pull on it. I then remove all the monitor cables and jump out of bed. This hospital can't be so big I can't find her. I'll hug and kiss some sense into her, and if that doesn't work – then I have my contingency plan to fall back on! I'm not going to lose her!

 

The nurse runs into the room, "What are you doing out of bed?"

 

"Get the fuck out of my way. I'm going to find my fiancée."

 

"Like hell you are, get back in the bed," she says as she grabs my left arm. I twist it around and put it in an arm lock behind her back. "Now, leave me alone. I don't want to break your arm," I say as I push her towards my bed and walk out in the hallway.

 

An MP comes over, "Sir, I don't think you're supposed to be out of bed." He tries to grab my arm so I head butt him and he staggers and falls to the floor. The nurse comes out of my room, "Call the orderlies, SM Blaine has gone crazy."

 

I look at her and shout, "I'm not crazy, I just need to find my fiancée!" I take off out of the ICU and book down the hallway. I run into two orderlies but they don't stand a chance. I don't permanently hurt them, but they are going to be sore as hell when they wake up. I see the elevators and get there just as one opens and two people get out. I step inside and press the button for the ground floor. I have no idea where Jens is, but I'm going to tear apart this entire hospital until I find her.

 

The elevator door opens on the second floor and two nurses get in and look at me. They start whispering to each other and finally one says, "You look pretty sick to be out by yourself."

 

I give her a dirty look, "Mind your own damn business."

 

The other nurse says, "Excuse us, but this is our business. You don't look like you're in any shape to be walking around by yourself."

 

"You're just a nurse, why don't you go play with your patients or each other and leave the diagnosis to the doctors." They both turn red and the first nurse says, "Your nothing but a filthy mouthed pervert."

 

I grin at her, "No, I'm a Marine on a mission to find my fiancée!"

 

The door opens and they fly out of the elevator, almost running over people waiting to enter. I step out into a crowd of people and they are all giving me dirty looks. I scowl back at them and yell, "What the hell is wrong with all of you, haven't you ever seen a wounded soldier!" They all turn away in embarrassment.

 

I smell food and remember the sound of plates in the background when I was trying to talk to Jens. I ask a lady, "Can you please tell me where the cafeteria is?"

 

"Sure, it's right down that hallway," she says as she points with a finger.

 

"Thank you," I say and head towards the cafeteria.

 

The cafeteria is crowded as hell but not many people notice me as I stand just inside the doorway and scan the room. Disappointment quickly sets in as I don't see Jens. I turn and realize the reason I'm attracting so much attention is my hospital gown. I walk into the hallway again and scan the signs. I see one which says Men's Locker Room so I slip inside. No one is around, but I hit the jackpot when I find a shelf full of scrubs. I look down at the catheter and decide if I can cut one tube on it I can get the piece of shit out of me. I can't find a knife so finally I just tear the plastic thing out of the end of the tube off, remove the catheter and throw it in the trash.

 

It hurts like hell slipping my arm out of the sling, putting on the scrubs and then getting it back in the sling so it takes much longer than it should. At least my butt isn't hanging out for the entire world to see. I even find some booties to slip over my feet. I walk out of the locker room, back into the hallway but now I don't attract unwanted attention.

 

Dammit, where is Jens! I check the cafeteria one more time, see some MPs scanning the crowd and I slowly slip back out to the hallway. Then it comes to me! I have to use my ability to sense her feelings to see if it will help. Concentrating with all my might, I can sense she's really cold, shit! She's outside. Almost running towards the door I stop when I see MPs guarding the door. Waiting for a group of people I fall in with them and start walking out, the MPs don't notice me as I slip outside. Damn! It's cold and nasty out here.

 

I start scanning the area, see a bunch of benches and finally, I see her! I run as fast as my arm will let me over to her bench.

 

Present – Jens - Hospital – Ramstein AFB Germany

 

Son-of-a-bitch! I am so pissed off. I'm not sure who I'm more pissed at: Ben, the conniving little bitches, Liz or myself. Ben because he let himself be manipulated by those two conniving little bitches, the conniving little bitches because they manipulated the hell out of Ben, Liz because she called me Evelyn and is being a bitch, and myself because I've acted so stupid and emotional.

 

Coming outside in the cold air has helped me to cool down and get my emotions back under control, but I'm still not ready to go back and see Ben. Not until I can be his loving fiancée again because right now if I saw him… Oh shit! It's Ben walking up to me! Liz was right he did come to find me.

 

"You're a hard woman to find!" Ben grins as he walks up to me.

 

"What the hell are you doing out of bed and your room?" I say to him, a bit more grumpy sounding than I really am.

 

He smiles and I feel love and desire start flooding into me, "Isn't it obvious? I came to find you and to tell you I love you and only you."

 

"Ben, it's cold out here and you're going to get sick!"

 

"Jens, I don't care. Without you life isn't worth living. I didn't fight my way back to you so you could run away from me."

 

I saw him start to cry and I start to cry with him. He gets down on one knee in front of me, "Jennifer Donaldson, will you please…" He never gets to finish because we're interrupted by a large group of MPs.

 

"SM Blaine, we're here to take you back to your room. Don't make it harder on yourself by fighting us."

 

Ben jumps up, "I need to finish something first. Can't you give me a couple of minutes?"

 

Glen walks up and Ben tries to salute. "SM Blaine, what the hell are you doing out of your bed and room."

 

"Sir! I need to do one thing then I will gladly go back to my bed."

 

"You will go back now, Marine."

 

"No Sir! Not until I'm done. I've never disobeyed an order before, but this is more important than the Marines and will only take a minute."

 

Ben again kneels in front of me and takes my hand, "Jennifer Donaldson, will you marry me tonight and be my wife?"

 

I'm shocked speechless and don't know what to say. Glen says, "Okay, take him back to his room." The MPs come over to Ben and he jumps up and starts fighting with them. "Leave me the hell alone until Jens answers me."

 

He takes down two of them. I jump up and say, "Hey, you can't treat my husband-to-be like that!" I start helping him and the MPs back away from us.

 

"Did you say husband-to-be? Does that mean yes?" Ben asks.

 

"It means yes, but first I have to tell you some things. You might not want to marry me after I tell you."

 

Ben stops fighting and looks at me in surprise. The MPs take advantage of the break and jump both of us. One of them 'accidentally' hits Ben's arm and he falls to the ground. I break free, kick the bastard in the balls as hard as I can and try to move over to take care of my Ben. I'm not watching and don't see the fist coming until it's too late.

 

Flashback Natasha (Jens) – Kabul Afghanistan - Monday 15 October

 

This damn backwards country, I had to hack the sat phone to get Internet connection and it's slow as hell. Well at least we don't have to pay for it. I routed the bill to General Stockman - let's see him explain this, the bastard! I needed information and a team to help me rescue Ben. I called for Liz, "Hey Liz, I need you for a minute."

 

She walked in the room and handed me a plate of food, "Here sis, I hope you enjoy it."

 

I sat it on the table, "Thanks, I'll eat it in a bit. Do you have your off shore account number?"

 

"Jens, what the hell are you planning on doing?"

 

I grinned at her, "Nothing much, I'm just going to add some money to your account."

 

"Jens, are you trying to get me arrested?"

 

I laughed at her, "No, it's coming from a 'hidden' account of General Stockman's and it's going to be earmarked as sexual favors."

 

Liz turned red and said, "Jens that's embarrassing."

 

"Liz, it's perfect. Don't you have videos of you and Stockman? If he comes after us we'll just release them."

 

She blushed even more, "Yes, but I never had sex with him."

 

I looked at her, "Ah, the Monica Lewinsky defense."

 

She became even redder, "Jens, you're embarrassing the hell out of me."

 

"Hey, I'm not the one getting my knees dirty." I sassed back.

 

She gave me a serious look, "Jens, it was hell because he doesn't take enough showers. I didn't enjoy it at all. I did it for you and Ben, so I could get information."

 

I could tell I hurt her feelings so I jumped up and hugged her, "Sorry sis I didn't mean to hurt you. I appreciate all you did for us and I'm going to make it worth your while." I finished the hug, sat back down and cleared all the money from Stockman's hidden account.  I looked at Liz, "You're now a multimillionaire."

 

"Jens, won't he be able to trace this?" Liz questioned.

 

"Liz, I bounced it through so many other accounts they will never be able to trace it. Besides it's an anonymous account. Now let's do some shopping with Stockman's money."

 

Present - Liz - Friday 07 December – Dushanbe, Tajikistan

 

I pick myself up and wipe away the tears. I need to find Zarika and Yasmeen and then coerce then into telling me if they tricked Ben into marrying them. If they did I'm going to leave their asses in Dushanbe.

 

I catch a cab to the Embassy; unfortunately the guards are off until tomorrow. With a bit of flirting I get the home address of both of them. Now it’s off to interview them.

 

The cab pulls up in front of a typical, Russian era building. Damn do these buildings look depressing, or what! What paint still left is mostly gray and the building has homemade balconies hanging off many windows. I pay the cab driver and get his card in case I need a ride soon. I approach the main entrance and walk inside. It's dark and dirty in the stairway but at least they keep this one cleaner than most because it doesn’t smell like pee. I walk to the door on his flat, yep, just like in Russia. It's a big steel door which looks like it could keep out the whole Russian army. I ring the bell and wait but nothing happens so I try again and hold down the button for about thirty seconds.

 

I hear some swearing inside so he must be home. The inside door opens, then the outer steel door opens and I see a guy in his underwear and surmise it must be Michael. He is tall and skinny with graying hair and is at least forty years old. At first he looks pissed, but then he looks more closely at me and smiles.

 

"Are you Michael, the guard at the American Embassy?" I ask and flirt with him just a little.

 

He looks nervous, "That depends on who you are."

 

I hold out my hand, "I'm Elizabeth Morgan reporter for the Truth Network."

 

He shakes my hand and I let the twenty dollar bill slip into his palm. "Ah, I have seen you on TV. Please come into my flat but ignore the mess - I had a little party last night."

 

I walk into his flat and quickly glance around the room. A little party my ass, I think he had a fucking orgy here last night. There are empty bottles and women's clothing strewn everywhere - the smell of stale sex permeates the air.

 

"Again, excuse the mess," he says as he kicks someone's thong out of the way. "Let's go to the kitchen and have some tea." It's a pretty big flat for one guy - I count four rooms including the kitchen. I glance in the back bedroom as we turn the corner into the kitchen and see two female bodies on his bed. They look pretty young and are not even covered up.

 

He pours some water out of a bottle into a sauce pan, lights the burner with a match and sets the pan on to boil. He pulls two cups and a small tea pot out of the cabinet. Then he rummages around in a different cabinet and puts some tea leaves in the small pot.

 

He returns, sits at the table, and pulls out a pack of cigarettes, "You smoke?"

 

I shake my head, "Ah yes, almost no Americans smoke anymore. Alas, it's my only bad habit."

 

I think ‘yeah right’: just from looking at your apartment I can see evidence of a few others. I patiently wait for him to finish his cigarette since I know he's sizing me up and trying to figure out if he has a chance to get in my panties. And I'm trying to figure out if I can get the information I need without letting this lech touch me.

 

The water starts boiling so he get up and pours it in the teapot and brings everything to the table. He reaches into a pantry and pulls out some confetti1 - at least I'm going to get a good cup of tea and some chocolate out of this.

 

1 Russian chocolates wrapped in paper or foil.  

 

I hear a noise at the door and one of the girls walks into the kitchen. She hasn't bothered to put on any clothes but doesn't appear embarrassed. She walks over, sits on Michael's lap and gives him a big kiss. Then she pulls away and asks him in Russian about the ‘old American bitch’ sitting at the table.

 

I grin at her and answer her in Russian, "I'm not a bitch you fucking whore."

 

That makes her blush, "Sorry, I didn't know you spoke Russian."

 

Michael swats her on the butt, "This is Ms. Morgan a reporter from the Truth Network. She came here to talk to me so go back in the bedroom and wait for me."

 

She kisses him again really hard, "Michael, we need to get ready for school. Can we see you again tonight?"

 

"I will call you and let you know - I might have other plans." She pouts, but goes back into the other room and starts picking up her clothes.

 

"So Ms. Morgan, why are you here and how may I help you?" He says with a grin.

 

I slide one twenty halfway across the table and he reaches his hand to take it. "Not so fast, I need some information first. You and Vasili were the two outside guards on duty when the very sick American Marine was brought to the embassy?"

 

He grins at me, "Yes Vasili and I were on duty then." I let him take the twenty.

 

"I want you to tell me everything about the event"

 

"I am not sure why you would want to know about it, but I am sure for the right price I can tell you everything." He leers at me.

 

The two girls walk into the kitchen and the mouthy one blushes when she sees me. They both kiss Michael on the lips and he runs his hands up their legs.  I can tell he is feeling them up big time under their dresses.

 

"Can we please come over again tonight?" The new one asks.

 

"I might be busy but will call you and let you know." He hands each one of them a twenty and they look at him like he is the richest man in the world. "Use this to buy something nice to wear in case I call you tonight." It earns him several more minutes of kisses and he's seriously feeling the girls up the whole time. When he pulls his hand out from under the last girls dress and she leaves, his hand is glistening. He puts it up to his nose and inhales, "Ah the smell of a young girl in love. Now we were just discussing how you are going to pay me for this information."

 

I decide there's no way in hell I'm letting this perverted bastard do anything to me, not after he's been fucking underage teenagers all night. I stand up, "Michael, I was willing to pay you well for the information. But after seeing the bullshit way you are treating those young girls there's no way in hell I'm going to even talk to you. I'm leaving."

 

He stands up and blocks the doorway, "Come on Ms. Morgan, they are just little sluts and if I wasn't fucking them someone else would be. Besides, I'd much rather fuck an experienced woman like you, one which can enjoy all of this." He drops his underwear to the floor.

 

I look at him and laugh, "Come on, you surely can't keep those little girls happy with that tiny shriveled dick." He starts getting angry as I walk towards him and kick him as hard as I can right in the balls. He lets out a yell and falls to the floor grabbing his crotch. I kick him twice more just for good measure, walk past him out of the kitchen, turn and squat next to him. I look into his pain filled eyes and say, "You're a real bastard taking advantage of little girls. I wonder what you're government will say when I show them the video I've been making of all of this." I stand up and he lunges a hand towards my ankle. I step out of his reach and stomp the hell out of his hand. "Damn fucking perverted bastard. I hope you're so sore you can't get it up for a month."

 

I dial the number for the cab as I walk out of the apartment. Just to be mean I leave his front door wide open. If the world is just, someone will come in, find him incapacitated and kill the bastard.

 

I get to the street; wait for the cab and start shaking. The damn bastard taking advantage of teenage girls that way, it reminded me of the many times…

 

Flashback - Liz – Kabul, Afghanistan - Monday 15 October

 

Jens was on her computer getting things for our mission and I needed to get busy and help her, at least I talked her into eating the food we made. I motioned Bernie to follow me.

 

"Bernie, did you have all our equipment checked for bugs?"

 

He looked pissed but said, "Yeah, we hired Linus, one of the friends Jens mentioned. He's on payroll full time for us. He found a shitload of bugs in everything. Some of the equipment even had to be destroyed."

 

"Those sons-of-a-bitches. Where is he now?"

 

"He needed some new gear so he's out shopping and should be back soon." Bernie replied.

 

"Is he okay on his own?"

 

Bernie laughed, "Hell yes, he's an ex Navy Seal."

 

"Bernie, do we still have some contacts in BW2?"

 

2 Blackwater a private military service company.

 

"Yeah Liz, we still use them occasionally for protection," He replied.

 

"You need to contact them and see if we can use them for the mission. Because they do so much work for the US government you will need to keep the details pretty vague until we find out if we can trust them."

 

"Will do. Are you and Jens going to be okay here by yourselves?" He asked treating me like I was his little sister. I glanced around the corner at Jens. "Yeah, she is so pissed off it's like being with a woman which has super-PMS. I pity anyone that gets in her way."

 

He looked at me, "Tell me Liz, are we going to jail over this one?"

 

I looked at him and knew I couldn't bullshit him, "I don't know Bernie. I'm going to try my best to keep us out of jail."

 

The look we exchanged conveyed more than words could. I knew he was worried but would do anything for me. "Well, I'd better get moving." I kissed him on the cheek, "Thanks for everything."

 

I went back and started getting into my burka. I made all the adjustments, went to Jens and tapped her on the shoulder. She jumped up, spun around and looked ready to kick the shit out of me. "Whoa sister, it's just me."

 

"Damn Liz, don't ever do that again. I almost beat the hell out of you." She looked at the burka, "What the hell are you doing back in the burka again?"

 

"I need to go out and do a couple things. I should return late this evening. I just want to let you know what's going on. Bernie hired Linus as our electronic security consultant - he's out getting supplies and should be back later. Bernie is out checking on our resources with BW and won't be back until later. Are you going to be okay here by yourself?"

 

She laughs, "Yeah I'm a big girl and can take care of myself." She hugged me and felt the body armor and pistol under the burka, "I didn't know you could shoot. Are you planning on trouble?"

 

"No, but sometimes trouble comes looking for me."

 

"Liz, don't bullshit me! You're going to do something dangerous. Perhaps I need to come along?"

 

"No offense Jens, but you don't know how to act in this country and we'd be caught in a minute. You stay here and do the things you do the best." I hugged her and walked out the door, secretly wishing I could bring her with me.

 

Flashback - Zarika – Tajikistan Day Eighteen

 

When I slept next to Ben I always felt so safe and slept so well, until someone started rudely shaking my shoulders. "Zarika, wake up. It is time for me to take care of Ben."

 

It was the little brat Yasmeen. At first it was sort of fun having a little sister, but then she started interfering in my relationship with Ben. Now she was a huge annoyance and every time I saw her I wanted to kick her butt. She was nothing but a mouthy little brat who thought she was better and prettier than me.

 

"Yasmeen, leave me alone. You were back here for about thirty minutes when it was my time so I want extra time."

 

She pulled at my shoulders, "Zarika, I was helping with Sasha not Ben. It is my time so get up and leave."

 

"Yasmeen, I am not leaving for another thirty minutes. You can go back up front and let the men touch you." Teasing her because I knew it bothered her.

 

She pulled my hair, "Zarika, stop being such a-a-a suka."

 

I looked at her, "What did you just call me?"

 

"I called you a bitch and you cannot do anything about it. If you fight with me Ben will make us both sit up front." I sat up and started towards her but the sneaky little brat was right and she knew it. "Yasmeen, I will remember this. And when we get to the Embassy, I am going to kick your butt so hard you will need a pillow to sit on for a month."

 

"Ha ha," she laughed at me. I slid past her, reached into her pocket and took her mirror.

 

"Hey, that is mine. Give it to me!" she yelled.

 

Ben started moving. "Shut up or you will wake him up. Finders keepers losers sweepers." I teased, "Now this is mine and you cannot do anything about it. If we fight Ben will make us both sit up front."

 

I crawled up front with my prize and heard Yasmeen sniffling in the back. It serves the spoiled little brat right.

 

I looked at myself in the mirror and the men in front laughed at me. "Look Zarika is pretending to be Yasmeen," Oleg said. I punched him in the arm, "If you call me that little suka's name again I will kick your butt."

 

Flashback - Yasmeen – Tajikistan Day Eighteen

 

Zarika is such a huge problem, at first we were good friends and she helped me, but now she tortures me all the time. When Ben takes us to America and marries me, we will live in a big house with a bunch of servants and I will have Ben make her my servant. Then I will get even and torture her like she tortures me.

 

I was so upset Zarika stole my mirror; it is not like she needs it with her ugly face. I hope she does not break it by looking into it - if so I will whip her when she is my servant.

 

I need to wake up Sasha to take care of Ben so I shake his shoulders, "Sasha, it is time for you to look at Ben."

 

"Huh, what is going on?" He asked.

 

I shake him again, "Sasha, Ben needs you to look at him." He rolls over and goes back to sleep so I pinch him on the butt.

 

"Ouch, what the hell is going on?" He asked and sat up.

 

"Sasha, it's time for you to look at Ben."

 

"Oh yes, thank you." He listens to Ben's breathing and checks his arm. "Zarika, I need to change the dressing again."

 

"Excuse me! I'm Yasmeen not Zarika." I indignantly said.

 

"You're both the same, just annoying little girls; help me get some new bandages," Sasha ordered me. Maybe I'll make him one of my servants and whip him too!

 

I brought him some bandages, "Make sure you do it right this time."

 

He glared at me, "You two little girls are the reason he is so sick. If you would have taken care of him the first night his arm would not be so bad. But you two were lazy and slept all night. You know he might lose his arm."

 

I never thought Ben might lose his arm and I started crying, "No, he cannot lose his arm. I cannot have a husband that is a cripple."

 

"Then get over here and help me." Sasha ordered. I could not move because of the fear. "Have you become deaf?" he yelled at me. It was impossible for me to move because I was so scared. Sasha yelled up front, "Zarika I need some help."

 

She falls through the opening into the back of the truck, "What's wrong Sasha?"

 

"I have asked Yasmeen to help me with Ben and she just sits there." He said.

 

Zarika touched my shoulder, "What is wrong Yasmeen?" She started to cry, "Sasha said Ben might lose his arm!" Zarika got a very determined look on her face, "We will not let that happen. We will change his dressing every hour if we need to. Come on Yasmeen, help me so we can save our husband's arm."

 

I moved over beside Zarika and we both helped Sasha change the dressing. Ben's arm looked really bad and smelled like nasty rotten goat cheese, it was even worse than the smell up front sitting with the other men. When we finished Zarika hugged me, reached in her pocket and gave me back my mirror. I smiled at her, "Thank you Zarika! Why are you being nice to me?"

 

"Yasmeen, we have both been very bad and have not been good wives to Ben. I heard Sasha scold you about us being the reason Ben is so sick and I decided he is right. Right now getting Ben well is more important than anything else. We both need to take very good care of Ben. I do not want him to lose his arm." She smiled at me.

 

"Zarika, you are right. I would like it if we did not fight again and both work to get Ben well."

 

Sasha said, "He needs to rest and be kept warm."

 

"Then we will lie on each side of him and keep him warm." Zarika replied.

 

Sasha crawled off in the corner to sleep and I got on the side of Ben with the good arm. Zarika carefully got on his other side and we hugged him as tight as we could. I ran my hand across his chest and enjoyed the feeling of his muscles. Zarika saw me, smiled and did the same thing. She grinned at me and then Ben started moving so she quickly took her hand away.

 

Flashback - Ben – Tajikistan Day Eighteen

 

Something bothered me and woke me up. I felt like hell and I'm very confused. I realized I was between Zarika and Yasmeen and asked, "Where are we, are we at Aamir's?"

 

Zarika kissed me on the lips, "No my husband. We are on the way to Dushanbe."

 

Yasmeen kissed me and added, "We are taking very good care of you. You will not lose your arm."

 

I started trying to move and realized I couldn't, "Hey, how come I can't move."

 

Zarika kissed me and ran her hands across my chest, "That's because my strong husband broke Sasha's nose."

 

Yasmeen kissed me and did the same with her hands, "Just relax my prince your young wives will heal you."

 

I struggle more, "What's this shit about losing my arm?"

 

One of them put a cool washcloth on my head, "Rest our husband and your young wives will take care of you and keep you warm." Zarika said.

 

I was so tired and needed sleep, "Okay, I'm going back to sleep." I slowly drifted off to sleep, but it seemed like someone was…

 

Flashback - Ben – Late 1999 Base in Indian Ocean.

 

The plane jostled me awake when it landed. I yawned, stretched and blinked my eyes. Then I remembered Linda Sue and I wondered if was it real or just a dream. I saw her walking back towards me and she reminded me of a puma stalking its prey. I knew my dream was real. She slipped into the seat beside me and gave me a huge kiss, "Thanks for the in-flight entertainment. If you're ever lonely you might give me a call." She slipped her phone number in my pocket, gave me another big kiss looked into my eyes and said, "Damn, it'd be so easy to fall for you." The she got up and walked towards the front of the plane. She checked a couple times to make sure I was watching, and yes I was watching.

 

Jack came back and sat beside me. I waited for him to say something about Linda Sue and me but he didn't - he was all business. "Okay Banzai we need to talk about a few things."

 

"What did I mess up this time Jack?"

 

He looked at me, "Are you crazy or something? You didn't mess up anything. I want to go over some things before we leave the plane."

 

"I thought you were going to say something about, well, something about what Linda Sue and I did."

 

He gave me a puzzled look, "I don't know what you're talking about. Now get your head on straight and listen to me."

 

I sat up straight, "Okay Jack."

 

"Now I know you've met a few sailors, most of which you've proceeded to beat the crap out of. Have you ever met a submariner?" Jack said.

 

"No Jack! I have met a few Seals though."

 

"They're damn good men, but let me tell you, submariners are different from any other sailors you will meet. They have a camaraderie which will remind you of the Marines. Also submarines are boats and not ships, don't make a mistake."

 

"Yes Jack, I understand."

 

"Good, one more thing, we will stay where they tell us to stay and do what they tell us to do. Whatever you do don't make any extra noise or drop something. Stealth is very important to them. Do you have any questions?"

 

"No Jack not now."

 

"Good, let's get our gear and go."

 

We walked off the plane and Linda Sue gave me a big hug, "Remember, if you get lonely give me a call."

 

I thought about how much fun it was being with her, but this time it was different. This time it felt like – well – it felt like I was somehow cheating on someone – which was silly because there wasn't ‘a someone’ in my life anymore. And while the passion and heat of the moment burnt the coldness and emptiness out of me, it was back now and worse than ever.

 

Flashback - Jack – Late 1999 SSN-22.

 

When I went back to sit by Banzai, he seemed embarrassed about the good time he had so I bypassed the whole subject and got him thinking about the mission.

 

We grabbed our gear, went down the airplane's stairs and following proper protocol were taken over to our new home for a few days, the USS Connecticut SSN-22. I'd been on a couple boats, but never one this new. Banzai was very excited so I pulled him aside and whispered, "Simmer down, you're too excited."  He snapped out of it right away.

 

We were taken to a small room with a couple bunks and stowed our gear. Then we were told where the mess and heads were and left alone. I looked over at Banzai, "I hope you brought something to read, because this is going to be a long boring trip." I grabbed my book and took the top bunk.

 

"Jack, this is exciting. I've never been on a sub before." He replied.

 

"Banzai, you'll learn that next to a ship, this is about the worst way to travel."

 

"But Jack, it looks very exciting in the movies."

 

I looked at him, "I bet you're talking about The Hunt for Red October."

 

"Yeah, that's the movie. It was great." He excitedly said.

 

"Banzai, do you believe everything Hollywood shows?"

 

"No, most of it I don't. But some seems pretty real, like that movie. And isn't Tom Clancy an expert on those things?"

 

"That movie is not very accurate. If you were to ask any submariner about it you would find out right away. Trust me, the best thing to do right now is read and sleep. They know to come and get us three hours before we deploy. Until then, we need to stay in this room unless we need to eat or the go to the head."

 

Banzai looked disappointed, but being the good kid he was he fell into the bottom bunk and started humming a song. I recognized the song from the first three notes, it was Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D-minor - the kid certainly had a wide taste in music. He was doing it pretty softly so I didn't complain. In fact it was so enjoyable I put down the book and listened to it. And it wasn't really humming, it was more like he was imitating a pipe organ and doing a heck of a job of it. I looked over the side of the bunk and saw he was lying on his back with his eyes closed, moving his hands and his feet in time with the notes. It looked exactly like he was playing the organ. "Hey, is that Bach your humming?"

 

He opened his eyes, noticed I'd been watching him and blushed. "Yeah, it was his Toccata and Fugue in D-minor. Sorry if I was bothering you."

 

I could tell he was still embarrassed and a little uncomfortable, but I wanted him to know how much I enjoyed it. "You didn't bother me at all, it was incredible. Were you pretending to play the organ while you hummed the notes?"

 

"Uh, no, I wasn't pretending to play the organ. I was actually practicing playing the organ in my mind. It's not as good as actually playing it, but it does let me keep the basic skills from getting rusty."

 

I was fascinated he could do this in his mind, and wanted more information. "So what made you choose Bach?"

 

He was certainly shy, because he blushed again. "Jack, don't laugh at me, but I remembered Captain Nemo from Jules Verne Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea playing the Toccata and Fugue in D-minor. Since he was on a submarine and we're on a submarine, it just seemed like the right thing to play."

 

"Banzai, I think it's incredible you could do this and would never laugh at you for it. In fact I'd like to hear you play it someday for real."

 

He grinned at me, "That's a deal. I have the old keyboard in my room. It's not a real pipe organ, but I'd love to play it for you when we get home."

 

I leaned back in my pillow and thought, there's a lot more to this boy than meets the eye. I guess the spell was broken because he stopped 'playing' Bach and I really missed it. I was just getting back into my book when Banzai said, "Jack I'm bored."

 

"Don't tell me you didn't bring something to read."

 

"Okay, I won't tell you." He sassed me.

 

"Didn't I teach you to always be prepared?"

 

"I don't remember- did you teach me that?" He teased.

 

I leaned over the bunk and looked at him, he was grinning like the Cheshire cat. "You'd better behave or I'll pull rank on you."

 

He grinned even more, "That'd be easy for someone as rank as you are."

 

I realized the little shit's just baiting me. "Okay LCpl Blaine, drop and give me twenty."

 

He flew out of the bunk, hit the floor and whipped out twenty perfect pushups. "Hey, thanks for the idea. I've been sitting too much, you mind if I do a little workout?" He asked.

 

"Just don't make any noise."

 

He took of his boots and shirt and started doing some sort of weird looking moves, I could tell it was martial arts but I'd never seen it before. It was sort of like a dance, a deadly looking dance. He started out moving slow and methodically and gradually built up the speed until the moves were almost a blur. He stopped after about thirty minutes, grabbed a drink and noticed I'd been watching him. "Jack, before you ask, I was doing Brazilian Capoeira. My Mom was from Brazil and taught me."

 

"You look like you're pretty good at it. Is it like Tai Chi or can you use it in a fight?"

 

He grinned at me again, "Jack, for someone that's as knowledgeable as you I'm shocked by what you just said. First, Tai Chi Chaun is Chinese for 'grand ultimate fist' and is very much a martial art, though many people use it just for exercise and relaxation. Watch this."

 

He went into some smooth and slow and rhythmic moves, again it looked as if he was dancing. "That was the twenty-four positions of Tai Chi. They may look slow, but by training in slow motion you learn the exact way to move to balance your yin and yang. Would you like a demonstration?"

 

I thought what the heck, this was more interesting than the book. "Sure, what do you want to do?"

 

He grinned, "Why don't you come down here and try to hit me. I'll block you using only Tai Chi."

 

I jumped off the top bunk, "Now we need to be careful, if I hurt you we're both going to get in trouble."

 

He gave me his silly grin and sassy tone, "Jack, you won't even touch me and I'll make sure I don't hurt you."

 

He was being sassy enough I needed to take him down a notch or two. It looked like he was holding a big ball with his hands, leaving his mid-section unguarded, so I took a half-hearted swing at his stomach figuring I'd knock the wind out of him. He moved his feet and his hands flew quickly apart as he blocked my punch.

 

He grinned, "Is that all you've got old man! My grandma could punch better than that when she was on her deathbed."

 

He was in the same silly looking stance so I took a real swing at his head. Again his feet moved and his arms flew apart. He grabbed my arm, put it in an arm bar, stepped in close to me and his other elbow came up quickly and tapped my throat. I realized if he had hit me full force I'd be laying on the ground.

 

He quickly moved away from me and grinned, "That's one of the offensive moves in Tai Chi."

 

I remember reading his service record on how well he'd done in Semper Fu3 and all of a sudden it made sense to me. "Well your Semper Fu results make sense to me now. How in the world did you learn so much about martial arts?"

 

3 A nickname for MCMAP Marine Corps Martial Arts Program a combat system combining existing and new hand-to-hand and close quarters combat (CQC) techniques with morale and team-building functions and instruction in what the Marine Corps calls the 'Warrior Ethos'

 

He laughed at me, "Jack, I didn't use Capoeira or Tai Chi in Semper Fu because I would have felt like I was cheating. I learned all the Semper Fu moves just like everyone else did."

 

"You didn't tell me how you learned so much about martial arts."

 

"I told you my Mom taught me Capoeira and I watched videos and taught myself Tai Chi. At first, it was hard getting the movements just right, but after awhile I found I knew when I moved correctly from how my body felt."

 

"But I gave you a pretty good beating the first night we were together." I countered.

 

He grinned again like a damn Cheshire cat, "Jack, I let you beat me because you outrank me and I'm your sniper. If you were really going to hurt me, I wouldn't have let you. I don't let anyone hurt me anymore."

 

I thought about what he said, thought about the scars on his back, and I realized it had many meanings and I probably understood only a few of those meanings. I almost asked him about Susan beating the crap out of him, but I knew it wasn't time yet and might jeopardize the mission.  "Well, I'm going to get back to my book," I said and crawled up on the top bunk.

 

"You mind if I do some exercises now?" I looked at him and thought how nice it would be to be young again. "Sure, just make sure to get in some sleep because I don't want you falling asleep on this mission."

 

He gave me a hurt look, "Jack I would never do that." Then he started doing pushups, I wish I'd started counting right away but I didn't so I figured he did at least fifty pushups without any problem.

 

He jumped up and looked at a pipe which was running through the top of the room, "Hey Jack, you think this is strong enough I can do pull-ups on it?" I looked at it and figured it would hold up three guys the size of Banzai, "I would test it by the wall first just in case." He walked over to the wall, grabbed the pipe and started doing pull-ups this time I did count and he did fifty.

 

Watching him was like watching a circus and was much more fun than my book. I wondered what he was going to do next and was amazed when he did a handstand in the middle of the room and started doing pushups, touching his head to the floor each time - again I counted fifty.

 

He dropped back out of the handstand, looked at me and grinned, "It's great to be warmed up, now I can start my serious workout. After all, I don't want to get flabby like my spotter."

 

This was the first time I'd seen my boy challenge me and it was a very good sign, "Flabby my ass, I can kick your butt." I jumped off the bed and walked over by him.

 

He said, "I tell you what, since you're so much older than I am, I'll do two reps to your one, just to make things even. Loser buys a steak dinner."

 

He didn't look that strong and I thought there's no way he's going to beat me doing two reps to my one, "That steak's going to taste pretty good - nothing better than a free steak dinner."

 

"Let's start with pushups, "he said. We both hit the deck, I'd do one pushup, he'd grin and do two. My arms were shaking when we hit a hundred and I couldn't do anymore. He gave me a silly grin and did another fifty then hopped up. "Banzai one, Jack zero," he said.

 

"Okay Jack, what would you like to do next?"

 

"This is your challenge, so it's your choice."

 

He looked at the pipe, "How about pull-ups?" We went to opposite sides of the room and grabbed the pipe, damn this pipe was hot but I wasn't going to complain to the kid. Again, I'd do one pull-up; he'd grin and do two. I made it to seventy-five before my arms gave out and my hands got too hot so I dropped off the pipe and watched as he easily did another twenty-five.

 

"Banzai two, Jack zero." He sassed me.

 

"I guess that leaves handstand pushups." Banzai said. I looked at him, "I've never done a handstand so I guess you win this one."

 

"Jack, don't be silly. I'll show you how to do them against the wall. He helped me do a handstand against the wall. I tried the first pushup and fell on the floor. He started laughing, went into a handstand and was cranking out the pushups. I was amazed since he didn't look big but he was as strong as an ox.

 

I sat on the bunk watching him. There was a knock on the door and the Captain stepped in. Banzai flipped over and landed on his feet at attention, scaring the crap out of Captain. I stood at attention and realized how tired I was.

 

"As you were LCpl Blaine, I'm here to talk with Sgt. Reynolds." I walked over close to the Captain and Banzai went back to doing handstand pushups. The Captain was distracted for a bit and watched him. Then the Captain gave me some information on our mission but kept an eye on Banzai. I looked over my shoulder and noticed he had started doing dive-bombs4. Banzai came over when he finished the dive-bombs, stood at attention and waited until the Captain was done.

 

4 A modified pushup - You start out in the yoga position of downward facing dog, then you bend your elbows and let your body come forward about an inch off the floor. As your breasts pass your arms, you push your arms up, locking your elbows, and bending your back in a reverse arch; sort of like cobra position, but your body is off the ground. You then reverse it, and that is one rep. It's great for working the shoulders, chest, and arms, and is also a good stretch.

 

He finished and looked at Banzai, "Did you need something Marine?"

 

"Sir, I was wondering if I could use the pipe which runs across the ceiling for pull-ups?"

 

The Captain looked at the pipe, "Well you certainly won't break it but you might burn your hands. If you do I will not be responsible."

 

"Thank you Sir!" Banzai replied. He went over and started doing pull-ups on the pipe the Captain watched the whole time. He reached up and grabbed the pipe and snatched his hand back, "Isn't it burning your hands?"

 

"No Sir, I don't feel the heat." Banzai replied, but then I think he decided to show off and started doing one arm pull-ups.

 

"Damn LCPl, you're one gung-ho Marine. I've even worked with Seals that can't do what you're doing."

 

He dropped off the pipe, came over and said, "Thank you Sir."

 

The Captain looked like he was thinking and said, "You know, we've got some pretty strong submariners on this boat, how about a little competition between you and them?"

 

I looked at my watch and interrupted, "Captain, I don't think it would be fair. LCpl Blaine's been working out for almost an hour."

 

Banzai came over with a huge grin and said, "Sgt. Reynolds, no disrespect but I feel fine and would very much like to have a competition with the Captain's men."

 

"Good, I think this will help to build the moral of my submariners. I will have someone come and get you in about an hour." He turned and left the room.

 

"Banzai, are you fricken crazy?" I yelled at him.

 

At first he sort of shied away from my yelling then he changed a little and became stronger, "Jack, I never said I was sane. But I promise you I will beat all of his sailors. Now if you don't mind I need to get ready for this."

 

He went to the corner, sat down on the floor cross legged and closed his eyes. I stared at him for about five minutes, went back to my bunk and watched him thinking. He's the strangest person I've ever met.

 

Flashback - Ben – Late 1999 SSN-22.

 

It had been an interesting time with Jack, and I was a little upset at myself. I might have accidentally let Jack see more of me than I wanted and was worried how he would react. I loved him like the Dad I had never had and if I drove him away – well, I'd kill myself.

 

I knew I could kick his butt on the workout, he didn't get enough exercise and this was my way of trying to motivate him and I think it worked. I was upset because I showed him I could whip his butt in martial arts. I hoped it wouldn't change the way he treated me. Many snipers felt they were the boss of their spotter but in my case I felt Jack was my boss - I was his sniper. He'd already made me better than I ever hoped to be.

 

Jack was worried I'd lose to the submariners, but I already saw myself beating them in my mind. I knew I would beat them or die trying because there was no way in heck I would let Jack down. I went to the corner and sat down forcing myself to relax and replaying the competition with me winning in my mind. I silently took inventory of how I felt: My arms weren't fresh, but not really too bad. I just need to concentrate on the contest and let the pain bring the help I'd need to win.

 

I heard a knock on the door and knew it was time, I stood up and Jack tried to hand me an ibuprofen, "Banzai, you need to take this so you won't be sore."

 

"Thanks Jack, but it would interfere and I won't take it."

 

"Banzai, you don't have to do this." He said with a worried look.

 

"Jack, I'm looking forward to this. Don't worry I won't let you or the Corps down."

 

The men took us into the mess: It was full of excited submariners. There were three huge submariners and one of them looked at me and said, "This scrawny Marine deck swab can't be the one I'm going to beat. Surely this is a joke."

 

I walked up to him and grinned, "Don't tell me this mouthy tub-o-lard nasty smelling squid thinks he can beat me in pushups and pull-ups." He was pissed and actually took a swing at me but I ducked and easily took his legs out from under him. He hit the deck with a huge thud.

 

The Captain came over, "That's enough! I will not tolerate fighting on my boat. The next one who takes a swing will spend the rest of this trip in the brig. Submariner apologize to this Marine."

 

He got up, extended his hand for a shake and said, "Sorry LCpl, I didn't mean anything." He tried to squeeze the hell out of my hand so I grinned at him and squeezed as hard as I could and saw the pain in the corner of his eyes, "No hard feelings."

 

First up were pushups, I looked at the three, smiled and wondered why people equate size and strength. These guys were about as large as they could be and still be submariners. But in a body weight competition like this, their weight was a disadvantage. Jack had been talking to the Captain and came over and whispered in my ear, "Banzai, I just found out the Captain's sent this up the chain of command. All the Marines and Navy know about this competition. I hear there are huge bets on who's going to win."

 

I looked at Jack, "Jack, I promise you I'm going to win this. Do me a favor and cover all the bets you can."

 

He went back and talked to the Captain and there was a flurry of activity around Jack. The other three continued their posturing, doing some pushups and pull-ups to warm up and try to intimidate me. I just grinned at them and patiently waited. Finally Jack had covered all the bets he could and talked to the Captain.

 

The Captain came over and said, "I watched this young Marine do pushups and pull-ups - he's one of the best I've ever seen. I thought it would be fun for the crew if we had a little informal competition. So in the spirit of fun let’s start with pushups - a pushup will not be considered complete unless you keep your back straight and touch your chin to the floor."

 

We started the pushups with the crew keeping count. We reached one hundred and one of the submariners dropped out complaining loudly that he hurt his elbow. At one-fifty I was feeling a little pain, but it was what I had been waiting for and I slowly felt hard Ben take over. He didn't show up often anymore, not unless I was hurting. The fatigue and pain in my triceps disappeared. At two-hundred another submariner was out, and it was the smallest of the three and me left. I looked over at him and grinned, "How about we make this interesting and switch to one arm pushups?" He let out a sigh and collapsed as I switched to one arm pushups, did ten with each arm and then jumped up.

 

I looked at the three submariners, "Well what a good warm up, you guys ready for some pull-ups?"

 

The Captain walked up, "The pushup part of the competition goes to LCpl Blaine. We will give him a ten minute break to get ready for the pull-ups."

 

"Excuse me Sir; I do not need a break. I'm ready right now." I heard a bunch of cat calls from the rest of the crew.

 

"Suit yourself LCpl Blaine. Get ready for the pull-ups and go."

 

If the pushups were hard for the big submariners, the pull-ups were even worse because they had to lift all their body weight. I ripped off ten quick pull-ups, looked over at them and said, "Come on and keep up with me." The crew started berating them for letting me get ahead and counted as they reached ten. I did a quick twenty pull-ups and again taunted them, "Come on guys! Don't let this Marine beat you." They caught up and one of them complained, "Hey it's not fair. He gets to rest while we're catching up to him."

 

The Captain said, "I agree, you all need to do pull-ups together. LCpl Blaine since you're so fast, you will set a reasonable pace and they will follow you." I thought to myself okay let's see how slow these guys can do pull-ups, knowing it was pure hell doing them slowly.

 

"Yes Sir." I said and slowly pulled myself up and tucked my chin over the bar and slowly lowered myself back down. They were watching me and trying to match my speed the biggest one who hurt his tricep fell off and complained, "Hey this is even worse, no one can be expected to do pull-ups this slowly."

 

The Captain stepped up and said, "I will count and you all will follow my count." He started off counting at the rate of about one pull-up a second." I decided to have some fun and started singing cadence.

 

When I die, please bury me deep!
Place an M40 down by my feet!
Don't cry for me, don't shed no tear!
Just pack my box with PT gear!
'Cuz early one mornin', 'bout zero-five!
The ground's gunna rumble, there'll be lightning in the sky!
Don't you worry, don't come undone!
It's just my ghost on a PT run!!

 

The crew started in on the cat calls but I was fired up and continued, deciding to make it more personal.

 

Navy Navy I'm in doubt
Why your bellies are sticking out.
Is it whiskey or is it wine,
Or is it lack of PT time.
Join us
Roll with us
Orraaahhh

 

One of the submariners got upset and dropped off. I looked over and Jack was laughing his ass off, but the Captain was not amused. "No more cadence singing allowed." He kept counting. I looked over at the last guy and smiled, "You might as well quit now, I can keep this up all day."

 

"No way in hell you're beating me." He struggled to say.

 

I started fooling around and doing leg raises at the same time, "Hey he's cheating again someone yelled."

 

"Like hell I am. I'm just bored as hell and trying to make things interesting." I said. "Maybe this will make it interesting", someone said and threw a shoe at me. I let go with my right hand and caught the shoe, then I returned it at high velocity to the same guy who threw it at me - it bounced off his head.

 

The Captain was furious and stopped counting, "Who threw that shoe! I should declare this contest over and LCpl Blaine the winner." I looked over and the last guy dropped off the pipe, "Captain Sir! Please I don't want to win this way. It didn't bother me and I hit the squid with his own shoe." I asked.

 

The Captain looked back and saw I was the only one still hanging, "Where did my last submariner go?"

 

"Sorry Sir! When you said the competition was over I dropped off the pipe."

 

"I guess it's over then," The Captain said.

 

"Please Sir! Let him get back on the pipe and let's finish this." I asked.

 

"Sgt. Reynolds, what do you say?" The Captain asked. I looked at Jack and nodded my head, "I'd say let Banzai win this."

 

"Okay, but he should get to rest like my submariner."

 

"I've been resting Sir. Please let's just finish this." The other guy grabbed the bar and we went at it again, he only lasted another twenty pull-ups and slipped off the bar. Everyone was looking at me, I looked at Jack and winked and did five one arm pull-ups with each arm and then dropped off the bar. Jack was there to catch me, "Damn boy, what are you trying to do, kill yourself?"

 

I smiled at Jack, "I promised you I'd win and I never break a promise."

 

I was exhausted! Jack and a submariner helped me back to our room and put me into my bunk. When the door closed I looked at Jack and said, "I think I'd like about four of those ibuprofens now." He grabbed the bottle, handed me the pills with a glass of water. I took all four, lay back on my bunk, curled up in a ball, started shivering and passed out.

 

Flashback – Jennifer Donaldson – Late 1999 At our home

 

Daddy was all excited as he talked on the phone and walked around the house. I hadn't seen him this excited in a very long time and was curious what happened. I knew Ben was on another mission and was a little worried, so I snuck into my bedroom and slowly picked up my camouflage phone. It used to be pink, but I painted it camouflage. Boy did Mommy get upset.

 

"You're telling me Banzai Ben just won the pushup part of the competition? And then embarrassed the submariners by finishing with one armed pushups? God damn! What a hell-of-a Marine. That means I've already made ten-thousand dollars." Daddy said. I almost laughed when I heard him swear so I bit my lip.

 

My Ben was in some sort of competition with the Navy and had won part of it. I didn't think this was the secret mission Daddy sent him on. My heart fluttered just thinking about how big and strong he was, now he was beating up the Navy.

 

"Yes Sir! He didn't even take a break and they're already doing the pull-ups. I guess he's teasing the shit out of the other competitors and is getting the Captain pissed off." It was someone else's voice who I didn't know.

 

Daddy sounded concerned when he said, "I hope the young fool didn't make a mistake, it could cost me a bunch of money if he did."

 

"So far he's looking really strong. Oh shit he just started singing cadences." The other man said.

 

"Which ones?" Daddy asked.

 

The other voice started laughing, "Son of a bitch! He did the Navy bellies sticking out cadence. The Captain is so pissed he made him stop doing cadences."

 

Daddy laughed in the phone so hard it made my ears hurt and I dropped the phone. I was scared, picked it up and set it back on the base. I ran to my bed and quickly pretended to be asleep. I was really daydreaming about how Ben was fighting the whole Navy all by himself and wished I could be there to help him.

 

I heard the door open in my room and I turned over, it was Daddy. "Jennifer I was wondering where you were." I yawned and smiled at him, "Hi Daddy, did you find me a gun club yet? I really, really, really want to go shooting. Especially since the ballet school is broken."

 

"Not yet Jennifer, I was looking for you to tell you I'm taking my girls out for dinner tonight to celebrate. You need to get up and get dressed."

 

"Daddy, can I wear my BDU's?"

 

"No Jennifer, you need to wear a dress tonight."

 

"Are you going to wear your nice blue uniform I like so much?"

 

"I'm sorry Jennifer, but the uniform is a little too small for me right now."

 

I smiled at Daddy, "I noticed it looks like you have a tire around your waist. Maybe you need to exercise more?"

 

He turned all red, "Jennifer, did Mommy tell you to say that to me?"

 

I jumped out of bed and went over and hugged him, "Oh no Daddy, I noticed all by myself. Aren't you proud of me?"

 

"Uh, yeah I guess so. Now get dressed because we're going out for a big steak dinner," Daddy said as he left the room.

 

I went to my closet and looked at all my dresses. They were all ugly except the one which sort of looked like a Britney dress but was much too long. So I took out the ugly dresses, threw them on the floor and rolled around on them making them all wrinkly. Then I hung them back up - now they looked terrible.

 

I sadly took off my BDUs, folded them nicely and put them on my pillow. Pulled on my long Britney dress but rolled it up on my waist until it was just the right length. I sat down in front of my mirror and started putting on my makeup. I was pretending Ben was taking me out for dinner tonight and when he saw me his eyeballs would pop right out of his head. Then he couldn't resist any longer and would ask me to marry him.

 

The phone rang and it scared me so I messed up my makeup. I picked it up and it was my good friend Megan. She was the daughter of Daddy's secretary. I had her and some of my other friends spying on Ben for me. Since I was the General's daughter they loved to help me.

 

"Oh boy Jens, do I have some news for you!" She said all excited.

 

"Jennifer, is the phone for me?" It was Daddy on the other phone. "No Daddy, it's my good friend Megan." "Oh, okay, don't take too long. We need to go out and celebrate." I heard the phone click.

 

"Okay Meg, spill it."

 

"I don't know Jens, maybe I shouldn't tell you. It's bad news about Ben."

 

I got scared, "Meg, if you ever want to be my friend you'd better tell me."

 

She giggled and said, "Don't worry Jens, I'm going to tell you. I was looking at Ben's file for you yesterday and noticed his address changed."

 

I interrupted her, "Don't tell me he bought a house with the female dog he lives with. I would D I E if he did."

 

"Jens, let me finish. I guess he moved in with Sgt. Reynolds his spotter."

 

"Oh goody, that means he doesn't live with her anymore." I felt my heart do a little flip-flop.

 

"Jens, shut up I have more info. I talked to Marcie, she's the daughter of a lady who works with Sgt. Reynolds' girlfriend. I guess Sgt. Reynolds and his girlfriend moved all of Ben's stuff out of the apartment and cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die-this-is-the-truth, his old girlfriend came back and Sgt. Reynolds' girlfriend beat her up, really bad. I guess she has black eyes and a crooked nose, I even heard her chest was hurt."

 

"Oh Meg! You're the best friend ever! I owe you big time for this." I hung up the phone jumped up and started dancing around the room. I was so worried Ben was going to marry the female dog. She was such a bad woman and I hated her. I even walked into Daddies office once right when she was leaving. Daddy looked really happy but his office smelled sort of funny.

 

Now Ben was free of her and free to marry me. I spun and danced around the room until I was dizzy. Mommy knocked on the door, came in and saw me dancing. "Jennifer, you aren't ready yet?"

 

"Sorry Mommy, I had really good news on the phone, got excited and started dancing."

 

She looked at me, "Jennifer, don't tell me your wearing that dress tonight to dinner. It's much too short."

 

"But Mommy, it's the only dress I have which isn't wrinkly."

 

"That can't be, I just washed and ironed two dress for you yesterday." She went to my closet and looked at all the dresses, they were really messy.

 

"Young lady, I don't know what happened, but you need to take better care of your clothes. Now we can't go to dinner because you can't wear that dress."

 

I smiled, "I could always wear my BDU's."

 

"Oh no you don't! That's all you ever wear and I'm sick and tired of them. I think I'll throw them in the trash." She saw them on my bed and started walking towards them. I ran as fast as I could, beat her to them, fell on top of them and started crying.

 

Daddy walked into my room, "Why is Jennifer crying and why isn't she ready yet?"

 

"Mommy's being mean to me again. She was going to throw away my BDU's." I complained.

 

Well this caused a huge fight. Daddy was telling Mommy I'd grow out of wearing BDUs when I started getting interested in boys. I almost puked when he said it because the boys in my class were so immature. Besides, I was more interested in my man Ben. Mommy told Daddy he needed to stop making me a tomboy. I knew this was going to last awhile so I pretended to cry really hard. They both stopped and looked at me.

 

I sobbed, "I-I-I hate it when you two fight. I don't want to go to dinner, maybe you could have that nice Nancy girl come over and babysit me while you two go out for dinner?"

 

Daddy said, "That sounds like a good idea to me, what do you think, Evelyn?"

 

Mommy looked at me, "Are you sure you wouldn't mind Jennifer?"

 

"No I think you two need some time alone and I would rather stay home, eat pizza with Nancy and do my homework. I have a bunch of homework to do."

 

"Thank you Jennifer, we promise we won't be too late." Mommy said with a smile.

 

"Oh don't worry Mommy. I'll go to bed at my normal time."

 

They agreed and went to call Nancy. I took the makeup off my face, sat in front of the mirror and looked at my chest. I wondered when it would start growing. Some of the girls in my class already had a big chest and all the boys bothered them about it. Especially Maria! Someone said she even let the boys touch hers. Oh gross! I'll have to ask my friends if they know any exercises to make them grow faster.

 

I remembered Ben's ex-girlfriend. It sounded so good to describe her as a female dog with a really big chest. It was so big it was gross! I didn't understand how he could fall in love with her. I hoped Ben didn't like big chests, because Mommy didn't have a big chest and neither did Grammy, so I knew mine would probably be small like theirs.

 

I hugged my BDUs and put them back on. It was going to be an exciting night for me. I knew after Nancy thought I was asleep her boyfriend would come over and they did things on the couch. I always snuck out and watched them so I'd know what to do with Ben when the time was right. Then I'd call all my girlfriends the next day and tell them what I saw. We would talk about it all day.

 

I wandered into the living room and waited at the window for Nancy and the pizza to show up, and for my parents to leave.